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Sitting at work, mindful of the people walking by his cubicle who might somehow sense that he is writing a short story instead of actually working, Ted is lost.
This isn’t like last time; where the stories all intermingled but kept their own identities. This time they have all culminated into one central plot. And he’s been putting of writing this story because he just doesn’t know how to keep from screwing the whole thing up.
It isn’t that the ideas aren’t there. His last turn set up the ending he had in mind perfectly. But he didn’t want to write the ending he had in mind. He wanted someone else to grab a hold of the lines he put forth and use them to tie their own ending on; like the all-important tail of a magical kite.
A God gone mad… Fallen Angels… Mysterious Pixies who apparently re-live the same events over and over again…
Wooly Dragons… a Secret President who’s also a Dragon worried about his children…
Time lost in a loop… the ultimate writer’s loophole where he can unmake and make and unmake again…
Too many Gods and Characters to keep track of… finding the ties that bind them all together…
The Belly of the Whale. Jonah. How did that story go? Sunday School was a long time ago.
Wikipedia says “God ordered Jonah to prophesy at Nineveh. Jonah did not want to, and tried to avoid God's command by sailing to Tarshish. During a storm he was thrown overboard, yet was miraculously saved by being swallowed by a large fish. The fish afterwards spit him out on the shore, in the land of Nineveh where the Lord had wished him to speak in the first place.”
How does he make that fit?
“Ah well,” Ted mutters to himself as he takes a deep breath and begins.
Sacrifices come in many forms, and serve many purposes. Some require killing, and some require presenting part of someone already deceased. Some are focused on blood or bones or fluids, and some are focused on the gesture itself.
Some serve to appease a maddened deity, and some serve to return his former servants to their true form.
Annalise moved out into the dining room where Fat Mac was waiting. He did not turn to her as he reached behind his back for the package. She quickly turned and returned to the kitchen, being careful to avoid the shifting and unshifting forms of the clientele.
Fat Mac didn’t bother to unwrap the package. There was no need. There wasn’t even a need to walk out the door to get to where he needed to be. He had been given the power to become incorporeal, and by Gods he was gonna use it. Through the picture window he floated, past the sneering form of Old Man Jenkins and right up to the likewise misty form of his brother Hal.
“Do we do an incantation, Mac?”
“No time, and the Gods don’t have the words to spare. Let’s just do it.”
Rijn was suddenly aware of something different. There were people on the ground below. Not like him; they were Giants. Some seemed as solid as he, and some seemed to be made of the air around them. Something stirred inside his mind… a memory that seemed to stretch back through time even beyond the days of Salyok and the Night of Salvation. Something about a punishment…
Everyone and everything in the diner stopped in mid-flux. This was it; the moment was here. It was as though a vacuum had been switched on outside; they could all feel themselves being pulled towards the front of the diner; towards the unfolding drama outside.
Mac tore the paper off of the hand (macguffin) and threw it to the ground right above the spot where the (idea) seed had fallen through the crack in the pavement. As it landed, Mac and Hal looked at each other one last time before fading into smoke that entwined and encircled the hand before seeming to disperse into the still air around them.
The hand’s fingers sprang to life, seeking a firm hold on the pavement below. They began to dig themselves into the ground as they turned a dark grayish-brown and cracked and peeled like…bark.
At the same time, at the point where the hand had been severed, the trunk began to extend. The Smooth Rock Trees bent themselves towards this limbless torso and attached to form the many branches of the Tree of Life. Of Ideas. Of Creativity. Of Story.
Some think the phrase “the belly of the whale” refers to being stuck in the middle of a bad situation. But if you look at the biblical story from whence it came, you will realize that it really means being carried along by forces greater than yourself.
Rijn and his brethren were awestruck. The Smooth Rock Trees were gone; replaced by what appeared to be a normal tree. Although the more Rijn stared at it, the more he realized that there was something very peculiar about it. The bark was teeming with what appeared to be script.
Before they had too much time to think about this development, however, each was struck firmly in the chest by a beam of light emanating from the newly formed tree. Their bodies writhed and twisted; the insect-like wings shed as their bodies swelled and grew to adult human size; soon replaced with the white feathery wings of… angels.
Sylvia Navarro rushed out the front door. It was all coming together apart together apart quickly now.
Our Father Who Art Jenkins watched as his banished ones returned to their true forms. For eons he had kept them looping through a cycle of feigned life and death as punishment for questioning his judgment. And now, finally, someone had figured out how to set them free.
But there must always be a balance to these things. When the angels fell and were cast out from heaven, Satan sent his own banished ones to “keep them company.” His children were cast in the role of the Chaparro Folken’s constant nemeses; the Wooly Dragons.
God, in his delirium and bloodlust, would have been overjoyed in anticipation of the battle that would inevitably ensue, but something else suddenly took all of his attention.
James “Little Jim” Satan Montrose arrived too late. His children were freed. Even before his driver had pulled the truck into the parking lot, he could see the winged demons emerging from their batty disguises.
But that didn’t disturb him nearly as much as the tree that sat between him and his offsprings.
Leilani’s moment had come. As if of their own accord, her wordwings began to flutter furiously, as she was lifted off the ground.
The front window of the diner shattered with a terrible crash as Lei-Lei emerged. Her purpose was clear. She needed only to outstretch her arms and then grasp them firmly around the body of the man who was once called Jenkins when her words took her close enough to him. An instant later she and God (areyoutheregoditsmeleilei) were swallowed up by the Tree.
Satan was furious. He understood the nature of this existence; good and evil must remain in balance. He shifted into his winged form and flew straight towards Leilani; hoping to stop her before she and Zeus reached the tree. He underestimated the tree’s power. In an instant, he, too, was gone.
Rijn, or Azazel as his name had once been, turned to face his demon pursuers, but never had a chance to strike a righteous blow before he and his brethren were absorbed by the Tree.
The remaining characters stood, dumbstruck, staring out of the ruined window of the Midway Trucker’s Paradise as the last of the demon dragons disappeared into the word branches. They still felt the pull, but for the moment stood firm on the cracked and tilting tile.
“Why are we still here?” Roman asked.
“Because,” Sylvia replied, “The REAL gods aren’t done with us yet…
Ted leaned back in his office chair, pleased. Hopefully he hadn’t let his fellow creators down.
Word Count: 1,376